Balearic Sibling Rivalry

I’m currently staying at a friends place in Mallorca for a short vacation and loving every minute.  Don’t get me wrong Ibiza is, and always will be, my first love so I’m not being unfaithful but this trip has emphasised how things change in the tourism world. Let me explain.

15 to 20 years ago you could argue that the 4 inhabited Balearic Islands were all similar bucket and spade resorts for those of varying budgets. 70s, 80s and 90’s families only had to choose which one to visit every summer. As a kid my own family alternated between Ibiza and Mallorca.

Now in 2017 the 4 islands couldn’t be any more defined in style and profile. The western world has become wealthier and as tastes have changed so have the individial Balearic resorts to accommodate the paying tourist, reacting to market forces. Darwin’s theory of evolution is apparent for all to see, or as I prefer to say “The market dictates”. 

Playa den Bossa is a prime example. Little more than 10 years ago it was the main family resort in Ibiza with hotels specially designed around kids. Nowadays it’s a cosmopolitan mecca rivalling Las Vegas as the best adult-only resort in the world. 5 star hotels are opening all over the island: Hilton are now in Ibiza Town and Nobu are just finishing their luxury hotel in Talamanca with Robert De Niro rumoured to be doing the honours at the opening party on 30 June. Ibiza may be hippy at heart but there’s no prizes for guessing which direction it’s rapidly moving in.

Ibiza’s smaller sibling Formentera has always been more exclusive and now the local government has pushed through reforms that has made it more eco friendly, keeping with tradition but also making the place even more beautiful and seemingly untouched. Having the best beaches in the world obviously helps but the island is now near the top of the tourist food chain with prices at eye-watering levels but try getting a room in the summer, nearly impossible.

Menorca rivals Formentera for amazing beaches and is still regarded as a family destination. Also like the 4th Balearic island it’s flat so ideal for outdoor pursuits and is home to Menorca Cricket Club who play at arguably the most beautiful cricket ground in Spain  Everyone who visits is usually surprised by the island’s quiet beauty and many return. It’s debatable whether the Menorca government wants mass tourism as their infrastructure isn’t huge and they seem happy with their niche in the market so if it’s not broke then why fix it but you can’t help thinking they they may need a new PR company to fully realise their potential.

Mallorca is still top of the tree when it comes to mass market, popular tourism. It’s easy to see why the largest Balearic island holds so much appeal. It’s organised and confident, has great beaches, beautiful mountains and activities for families, couples, sports people and thrill-seekers alike. Even the much maligned Magaluf has more facilities than the other 3 islands put together and in Palma it has one of the most spectacular cities in Spain. Like Ibiza, Mallorca has been a victim of its own success but much of the 1400 square miles is still undeveloped, and if you head out to the more rural areas you can enjoy a far more traditional island escape.

The Siblings 

Ibiza: The noisy yet cool renegade, a new age hippy dressed in the latest expensive fashions. 

Formentera: The chic bohemian, a natural beauty who always looks the part. The star pupil who doesn’t need to shout loud. 

Menorca: The quiet thoughtful one that rarely lets you down. Dependable and humble, doesn’t like to boast.

Mallorca: The confident big brother you look up to and who sets the standards for all to follow. Often have to ask his permission before doing anything.

With these siblings there are no losers, only winners. 4 islands, 4 different flavours, 4 to choose from. The main winner is the hard working tourist who only has to select which beautiful island to visit. That’s sibling rivalry but not as we know it.

Note: it’s my ‘Man in San An’ 2nd anniversary. Thanks to all who follow, read and comment. 173 blog posts so far and counting. 

Author: Martin Makepeace

Englishman living and working in Ibiza since 1991. Entrepreneur with a passion for villas, boats, sunsets and San Antonio. Read my blogs, listen to my podcasts and catch me on Radio One Mallorca every Tuesday morning.

7 thoughts on “Balearic Sibling Rivalry”

  1. Really enjoyed this article and agreed with most of it. However living and working in Mallorca for almost 17 years I couldn’t live here if Palma was not a 20 minute drive away! A fabulous city on your doorstep is real must – particularly in the winter. Keep blogging Martin.


  2. Always enjoy reading your views as our ‘man in San An’ and you’ve brought the Balearic contrasts to life really well here. I’m off to Menorca for the first time this summer so will judge for myself. Happy blogging birthday!


  3. Always a good read Martin and agree with all you say. Ibiza takes my gold star though and looking forward to being sat at the sunset strip this weekend. Cheers 🍺


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